By Paul Lebowitz
There's a new shark on the block, and Kayak Fish got an early look. The verdict: Wilderness Systems has produced a pair of dangerous deep-water hunters. Named the Thresher after a fish-killer that swings a mean tail, this new shark comes in 140 and 155 models.
Go-far rides are part of Wilderness Systems' design heritage, but the Threshers should not be confused with Tarpons, the company's skinny water kings. The arrow-straight T140 and T160 are known for chewing up the miles, but for all their many strengths they never strayed far from their touring kayak roots. The Threshers like it rough.
"We designed the Thresher hulls to provide superior offshore performance. To carry a heavier gear and fish load, and to provide increased stability," says David Maughan, Wilderness Systems product designer.
The Kayak Fish crew connected with a late prototype of the 14-footer out at the La Jolla kelp on a day the ocean was conveniently unsettled. We swam it menacingly through the weeds and over rolling swells. Before we set it loose—we show similar respect to all sharks, an "I won't eat you if you won't eat me" deal—we watched it aggressively chew up thumpy surf.
The Thresher's predatory advantages are immediately obvious. They are built around large rectangular console hatches, the first in any Wilderness Systems model. Hinged at the front, they flip forward for easy in-hull access right from the cushy Phase 3 seat. Our Thresher had a prototype hatch cover. Maughan says the final version will be rigid. It's meant to be watertight—the design team engineered a complex dual bead into the hull for a better seal, and put it through submerged leak testing. "After 15 hours we didn't have a drop inside," Maughan says.
Stashing 8-foot meat sticks for the ride back through the waves was no real challenge. Most spearguns should fit too. Longer rods might require briefly removing the boat's other signal feature for easier hull access. That's the Flex Pod OS, a larger version of the drop-in self-contained sonar console that debuted with the Ride 115x. If you're new to the concept, it's simple: a single unit that holds a battery inside, a transducer below, and the sonar display up above. It plugs into the hull directly forward of the cockpit hatch. The Flex Pod is a real differentiator for Wildy, the only domestic kayak maker to offer anything like it.
We know what you're wondering: Does it create any noise, any chatter? Not on the prototype Thresher 140 we tested. It's a silent menace.
There are more fishing features, including Wilderness Systems standards such as SlideTrax accessory rails along the cockpit and stern tankwell gunwales. The paddle park is built into the swing-forward hood that covers the bow well, an enclosed and scuppered storage area for fish, an anchor or tackle. It's a compromise. "Originally people told us they wanted a sealed hull. The console hatch was an exception, since we engineered it to ruggedly resist water," Maughan says.
Let's talk about performance. The Thresher hulls pop over surf and swell; the nose is proudly flared. The keels are contoured, the chine rounded for better surf performance. The boats feel solid and not at all twitchy. The Threshers are like nothing else Wilderness Systems offers—true blue water hunters.
Wilderness Systems Thresher 140:
L 14' 3" • W 28.75" • WGT 75 lbs • Cap. 400 lbs. www.wildernesssystems.com
(prototype stats, subject to change)